A Little background:
• The Covid 19 virus is a real virus. People are dying from it.
• But the virus is being blown way the heck out of proportion, and most of the deaths attributed to Covid are actually people who had the virus dying from something else. (CDC has acknowledged it..)
• A fair number of people are scared silly of the virus. (This is not a time for judging.)
• There are a few vaccines for the virus. Except that they’re not vaccines, they’re “experimental therapies.”
• A fair number of people are scared silly of the vaccines/experimental therapies. (This is not a time for judging.)
• The federal government and a good number of state and local governments are working overtime to convince us that we need to get the vaccines/experimental therapies. (Ironically, as I’m writing this, I’m getting text and email notifications working to persuade me to get the treatment.)
• The attempts to manipulate/convince the public are primarily based on either bribes or threats; they are mostly not based on logic, research, or science.
• It’s pretty well documented that the medical community has opportunity to make a lot of money from the government for promoting the Covid “vaccine,” for treating Covid symptoms, for reporting Covid deaths. (NB: It’s my policy to place a lower value on the opinions of people who are being well paid to have and to convince me those opinions.)
• A fair number of people are scared silly of the government’s intentions. (This is not a time for judging.)
• The Bible is pretty clear: we don’t actually have reason to be afraid, and in fact we are commanded to not fear.
• A fair number of people are afraid to trust God when our health, our life or our government is on the line. (This is not a time for judging.)
OK. That’s the background. (Note that I’m not interested in arguing about these points. If you feel that urge to fuss about these, go somewhere else to do it.)
TESTIMONY. This is my own story; fair warning: it might be long and rambling.
I’m a fairly strong, fairly healthy adult male with a solid immune system. I’m not actually afraid of the virus. I’ve walked with Jesus long enough to know that he’s serious about his ability to take care of me, and I know that it’s true that “whether I live or I die, I am the Lord’s.”
I’ve heard first hand reports from medical professionals, from people who have taken the vaccine; I’ve read the manufacturers’ statements about them (and their disclaimers of any liability for their product).
Based on what I’ve read (and I’ve read the original CDC & other reports, not just the news reports about them), I don’t see any reason why I personally need to take the vaccine/experimental therapy that they’re so aggressively promoting. I don’t judge those who take it, but I am comfortable concluding that it’s not for me.
But there are people around me who are scared of the virus, some more than others, of course. Many of these are MY people, people I would die for, people who would die for me: people I love.
These people are scared for me, and they believe they have reason. They consider me higher risk for more than one reason, and the reports agree with them. Some of these people trust the vaccine/experimental therapy, and they want me to “protect myself” and take it. Some of them want me to take it as protection for themselves. (This is not a time for judging.)
So this put me in a tough place. I was confident that I didn’t need the vaccine/experimental therapy, and that in fact, I would be wise to avoid it.
But people who love me were paying a price for my choice. That wasn’t comfortable for me. There were people, people I love and whom I love to be around, that weren’t comfortable being around me. That’s not comfortable for me.
That’s been a hard place. And when I find myself in hard places like that, I try to remember to take these to my Father, so I brought this awkward, confusing, emotionally-charged mess that was in my heart to him. He listened quietly for a while (or at least I assumed he was listening, but he sure was quiet). I poured out my concerns and confusions to him. I wasn’t OK with this divided heart thing going on.
We spent a while here, days, maybe weeks, not minutes or hours. But eventually, his peace did what it does, and it settled my thoughts and emotions and drew my attention back to my Father’s goodness where it belongs.
And in that process, he drew my attention to Mark’s version of the Great Commission, and to one clause in particular: “If they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.” He wasn’t giving me a direction in the midst of the options, he was just reminding me: “This is the way I am with you, Son.”
As I kept praying (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stopped listening too early!), I felt his affirmation that I could trust him, I could trust this promise, whichever way I chose to go, but this was my choice to make; he wasn’t going to make my choices for me here.
I still believe that this virus isn’t a threat for me personally, and I still believe that I don’t need the experimental therapy that’s being promoted.
So I signed up to get the experimental therapy, confident that it will by no means hurt me. That was long enough ago that I had to work really hard to get it; it was really awkward, really uncomfortable, really irritating to jump through all the hoops. (The notifications I’m getting now announce that some places have it available for walk-ins.)
After several weeks, I made it to the front of the line and it was my turn. They had me sign a raft of papers (and were really confused when I insisted on reading what I was signing), and the nurse who gave me the injection confessed that he didn’t believe we needed “a ‘vaccine’ that is 95% effective against a disease with a 99+% survival rate.” We laughed about it together.
When it came time for the second injection, people crawled out of the woodwork to tell me their horror stories of how bad the second one was, and how dangerous it was, and how that’s where people got sick from the second one. Thanks folks!
So I reminded myself pretty aggressively of Father’s promise. “If they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.” My version went this way: “If I am injected with anything deadly, it will by no means hurt me.” It was kind of hard work to agree with him instead of all the fear-driven testimonies.
The next morning, I woke up feeling “off,” and the doubts whispered into my ear: “See! I told you you’d get sick! Now it’s happened to you!”
So I had a conversation with my soul. “If I am injected with anything deadly, it will by no means hurt me.” I kind of had a shouting match inside my soul for a while, but eventually my soul gave in, the symptoms vanished, and I had a great day. That was a month or two ago, and I haven’t been sick for a day since.
I still shake my head (sometimes when my soul gets out of line) at how much this changes the hearts and the choices of some of the people I love, but then I remember, “I did this for you, because I love you.” I can’t generally tell them that, of course, because they think I was convinced of their opinions when I saw the error of my ways because of their insightful presentation of the media’s hysteria.
And I feel my Father’s comfortable pleasure with my choices here. It was my choice, your choice might be completely different. But this is how I dealt with it.
I hope my story is helpful to you.
It’s a deception, an illusion, and it’s perpetrated, many times, in God’s name, and often with the best of intentions.
It’s the deception of the finished lesson.
I became aware of it while I was studying something-or-other for teaching. I felt like I was wrestling a greased pig. I cut my way through bunny trails and wild goose chases and fought off premature and inaccurate conclusions.
It was a long and arduous process.
And when I was done, I presented my results to the folks I was teaching, all tidy, all logical, all wrapped up with a nice little bow on it.
It was good teaching. And my conclusions were both accurate and relevant.
But I was uncomfortable with how tidy it was. This was not a tidy topic, and I felt that I’d done folks a disservice by hiding the blood, sweat, toil and tears that went into the process.
In actual fact, the blood, sweat, toil and tears are a legitimate part of the topic, of the conversation. Let’s be honest: outside of TV shows, there aren’t a lot of thorny questions that tidily wrap themselves up in 30 minutes, are there?
It seems to me that the need to make things tidy and clean and neat is not actually a benefit to American culture.
Let’s be specific. If we think that the abortion issue has a clean and simple answer, we’re not paying attention. If we think that the topic of social justice can be solved easily, we’re smoking something interesting. If we think the fear of God, or the grace of God, or the rapture, or the solution to immigration, or balancing a household budget have tidy answers, we’re not seeing the whole of the subject.
Christian platitudes are an abysmal failure. But Christian blogs and Christian books (and not-so-Christian books) that have clear-cut answers are equally deceptive.
We’ll see how I respond to this, how I deal with this in the future. As much as anyone else, I like having clear answers readily available, and I like not looking like a dork as I stumble for an answer that actually means something on a complex topic.
But we might find that not every post has a confident conclusion. I don’t know. We’ll see how this turns out.
I knew a man who studied God, and God’s ways, for decades. He could put all kinds of letters after his name, including DMin, and PhD. He understood the Bible better than anybody else I knew at the time.
When I listened to him, I thought, “What a learned man. What a great foundation! I need a foundation like that.”
I knew another man who didn’t have a degree, but had spent a couple of under-funded decades among a people who didn’t even know who God was: teaching some, discipling a few, and desperately depending on God every day, for his meals, for his ministry, for his family’s lives.
When I listened to him, my heart melted. I prayed earnestly, “Father, I want to know you like this man knows you!”
I knew another man who came from the streets, and even that was just recently. He had not the slightest shred of education, and it showed. But he spent hours, many hours, just sitting in God’s presence, listening to his heartbeat, talking with him about what was on his heart.
When I listened to him, I realized that he had some ideas that were pretty messed up, and the first guy could help him with that. And I saw that he had some serious insecurity issues, identity issues, and the second guy could really help him with that.
But when he talked, he blew my mind. He healed the sick regularly, got words of knowledge effortlessly, and unbelievers listened carefully when he talked about his Jesus.
When I listened to him, I thought, “Father, is this really possible? Can your children walk in this kind of revelation, this kind of power, in this day and age?”
I learned some things in this reflection.
• I really do love meditating on the things God has done in my world, in my life. The angel in Revelation 19 was right: the testimony of Jesus, who he is, what he's done, really is the spirit of prophecy. Mmm mmm. So good.
• Different people have imparted different strengths into my life. If I only listened to people like me, I would certainly not be who I am today. Since both my wife and I like who I am today, this would be a bad thing.
• Even people that make me uncomfortable can have a great impact on my life, provided I’m willing to learn. It's that "willing" part that I wrestle with sometimes.
• It’s not enough to know ABOUT God. I must know God. And there’s more to know than I have any idea, even now. What a big heart!
• It’s not enough to know God. I must also know ABOUT God if I aspire to trust him, to be like him. And again, there’s more to know about him than I even believe is possible.
• When God invests himself into a person, he doesn’t necessarily make that person tidy, neat, clean, respectable. My ideas for what a “Good Christian” is were woefully inadequate, which means they are probably still woefully inadequate today. (Yet again I am reminded: He is NOT a tame lion.)
I grew up and learned religion. So of course, my home was a dry household. And then I worked for a pastor who never taught that alcohol was evil, but he surely acted as if it were, and expected his staff to as well. It started me thinking.
Eventually, we had children in our alcohol free home, and it was good, of course. Until God intervened.
On one of my regular retreats, on a solo camping trip, God woke me up in the middle of the night and warned me that I was failing my children. OK. he had my attention.
I crawled out of the back of the pickup where I was sleeping so I wouldn’t fall asleep in the middle of our conversation. Sure enough, the little voice, the impression in the back of my head continued:
“In a few years, your children will be entering junior high school. They won’t be out of your influence, but there will be many other influences there. Some of them, and you know what this is like, will invite them to discover beer, to discover drunkenness.”
And then he dropped the big one. “And you’ve done nothing to prepare them for that temptation.”
My heart sank. I knew he was right. But he didn’t let me sink there. After a moment or two, my mind began to fill up with perspectives and ideas and insights.
One of them caught me seriously off guard. He reminded me that I loved barbecue, but I was frustrated: a great steak was NOT complimented by a glass of milk, or by a CocaCola.
Oh my. Seriously?
But then I had visions (pictures) of what could happen. I saw better barbecues which led to better fellowship. I saw my children - my family - separating themselves from the religious spirit that accompanies many alcohol-free homes. And then I saw my son, in junior high school, being approached to step behind a barn and share a Budweiser with him, and my son responded with, “Beer? That’s not beer. That's cat piss! Let me tell you about real beer!”
Oh my. I remind you that this is in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods. I remind you that while I had tasted beer before (and not liked it), I had never had a glass of beer. I remind you that I was really comfortable in my no-alcohol religion.
And here’s God, telling me not just to drink beer, but to become educated about beer. And God was telling me to (gasp!) give beer to my school-age children, and to (gasp!) listen to their opinions about the stuff!
That was fifteen or twenty years ago, and it has been a glorious success (as if it’s surprising that God’s plans work!). I became a far better father than I had been before! And the beer? I had no idea of the variety. I still don’t love all kinds, but there are some that are pretty good, and there are some that make a good barbecued steak into a great barbecued steak. Who knew!
Oh, and that vision about my son telling his tempter, “Beer? That's not beer!” Yeah, that happened, though it looked different than the way I imagined it. And now he brings both life and excellence into a world I'd never reach, to people for whom alcohol is pretty important.
I’m not trying to say, “You need to drink beer!” Oh heck no! Don’t do that (unless God speaks to you the way he spoke to me). My obedience included learning about beer, but others' obedience involves not drinking beer.
I’m trying to say, “It’s a really good idea to do what God says, even if it’s really weird!”
Oh, and let me add: God the Father has some really good insights about how to be an excellent parent. I encourage you to learn from his wisdom on that topic!
Unfortunately, when I returned home, I discovered I had left my jacket, with my wallet, behind, and I didn’t recognize it until I returned home, an hour’s drive away.
I think if I hear that again, I’m going to scream.
May I speak plainly? That’s one of the stupidest spiritual-sounding things we could say in this day and age. I make the assumption that people who say that mean well, but come on! Let’s think about this a little bit:
The first century church, the church in the book of Acts, was a wonderful beginning. But they were only a beginning: this was the baby church, in diapers, as it were. I can tell you that I have no interest in going back to diapers. That would be such an epic failure, for the church of today to return to the “glory days” of the first century church! What was for them glorious success would be the worst of failures for us.
● “But,” someone will moan, “There were three thousand saved in a day!” That’s pretty good for rookies. Today, that’s less than an hour’s work in the Kingdom, and some reports suggest that’s closer to 20 minutes’ work.
Let us note that it only happened twice in the Book of Acts that three thousand were saved in a day. Today, more than three thousand people come to faith every single hour of every single day of every single year.
I’m thinking that’s an improvement.
● “But there were signs and wonders!” Somebody is seriously not paying attention. There were fewer than 20 miracles reported in the book of Acts, though there were repots of “lots of miracles.” Nowadays, we have lots of miracles on a regular basis.
I know one group that has a 100% success rate at healing the deaf, and nearly as good success healing the blind. I know two groups that won’t let people become elders unless they’ve raised someone from the dead. I know a group that legitimately calls themselves “The Dead Raising Team,” and they’re successful at it. I can’t tell you the number of successful healing teams I’ve heard about! They’re everywhere, and best of all, NOT just among the leaders, like the book of Acts.
Bethel Church in California reports thousands of documented miracles every time they send their students on outreach. And have you talked to the Healing Rooms movement recently?
Besides, I’m not sure I want more “Ananias & Sapphira events.” It’s my private opinion that even when that happened in Acts, it was an error, and not the will of God, but that’s another story. Surely it won’t be best for folks to fall dead in our meetings, when nobody can agree why it happened!
● “But they had all things in common!” I’ll grant that this is an area that we have room to continue growing in. But I am also aware that we’re talking about completely different cultures here. In that culture, if you couldn’t work, you starved to death. In our culture, the homeless guys on street corners make a (meager) living that in most of the world (or in the first century church) would be considered unmitigated wealth. (http://nwp.link/1s8woOt)
This does NOT mean that I propose that we stop helping the poor! Heaven forbid! This means I propose that we quit berating ourselves simply because we still have poor people among us: Jesus said we always would! (Matthew 26:11)
● “But they sold their homes! That’s dedication!” Well, some of them sold their homes. That was just good business; these were smart Jews! Jesus had clearly declared that the city would be destroyed shortly. It’s just good business to sell a house this week for full price that’s going to be destroyed with the city next week and be worth nothing! And clearly, if they “met house to house,” then not everybody sold their homes.
For the record, I know a bunch of people who’ve sold their homes for the ministry, several more than once. I know of others who sold themselves into slavery so that they could bring the good news to those in slavery, and they died in slavery. Most of these folks haven’t had books written about them, so they’re not known as well. But then Jesus taught us to keep quiet about our generosity, yes?
We could go on.
It is NOT my intent to disparage the excellent start that the Church had, as reported in the book of Acts. That was glorious.
What we have now is substantially more glorious. And that, too, is what we were promised. (See Isaiah 9:7)
The Cleaning Lady
Reflecting on the repeated word “good.” (Principle: when the Book repeats something, it’s worth paying attention to!)
The word for “good” is ἀγαθός, and it “describes that which, being “good” in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect; it is used
(a) of things physical, e.g., a tree.
(b) in a moral sense, frequently of persons and things. God is essentially, absolutely and consummately “good. (Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words)
This tells me something that I don’t actually want to know: what I say (and presumably what I write about on FB) reveals my heart. If I’m talking about things that are beneficial in their effect, if I am pointing out that which is good about things, then this verse declares that I am a “good man” and I have “good treasure” in my heart.
But if what I say (and presumably what I write about on FB) is talking about things that are faults, or problems, or failures, or complaints or even just drivel, then this verse declares that I have “evil treasure” in my heart.
Certainly, I wish to apply this to myself: I can judge my own heart by watching what I say. Are my words revealing good or evil in my heart?
But I probably need to take this a step further as well: who am I reading, who am I following. If they’re speaking things that comfort me or challenge me or cause me to dig deeper into God, if they’re declaring what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous or praiseworthy (see Philippians 4:8), then I can safely judge the fruit: this is “good treasure” coming from a good heart.
But if I’m listening to people or reports that are bringing fear, or outrage, or self-pity, or resentment, or entitlement, or powerlessness, or reports that are stirring worldly desires (“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” 1 John 2:16), then I can – and must – judge that report as “evil treasure,” and recognize that it is coming from a motivation that has evil toward me in it, whether those speaking it mean for it to or not. (I’m not judging their heart; I’m judging their words.)
May I tell you a secret? That’s why I stopped watching the news. Father showed me this, and he called it my “devotional with the world.” I don’t hide from the news, but I get my news on my terms now, not on theirs.
I intend to judge fruit. I choose to be a fruit inspector. I choose to filter the fruit that others give me, to receive the good, and reject the evil.
Connie says, “Just a moment, please. I’m almost done,” and explains that they need to believe, but rather than praying with them, she instructs those who want to follow Jesus to speak to Kim and tell her.
And I “shared the gospel” with a whole bunch of people. Actually, I attempted to share the gospel, but they saw me coming, and dodged me before I could talk with them. I didn’t lead a single person to faith. Actually, I didn’t even have a serious conversation with even one person that whole day.